Most viruses undergo a maturation process from a weakly self-assembled, noninfectious particle to a stable, infectious virion. For herpesviruses, this maturation process resolves several conflicting requirements: (i) assembly must be driven by weak, reversible interactions between viral particle subunits to reduce errors and minimize the energy of self-assembly, and (ii) the viral particle must be stable enough to withstand tens of atmospheres of DNA pressure resulting from its strong confinement in the capsid. With herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) as a prototype of human herpesviruses, we demonstrated that this mechanical capsid maturation is mainly facilitated through capsid binding auxiliary protein UL25, orthologs of which are present in all herpesviruses. Through genetic manipulation of UL25 mutants of HSV-1 combined with the interrogation of capsid mechanics with atomic force microscopy nano-indentation, we suggested the mechanism of stepwise binding of distinct UL25 domains correlated with capsid maturation and DNA packaging. These findings demonstrate another paradigm of viruses as elegantly programmed nano-machines where an intimate relationship between mechanical and genetic information is preserved in UL25 architecture. IMPORTANCE The minor capsid protein UL25 plays a critical role in the mechanical maturation of the HSV-1 capsid during virus assembly and is required for stable DNA packaging. We modulated the UL25 capsid interactions by genetically deleting different UL25 regions and quantifying the effect on mechanical capsid stability using an atomic force microscopy (AFM) nanoindentation approach. This approach revealed how UL25 regions reinforced the herpesvirus capsid to stably package and retain pressurized DNA. Our data suggest a mechanism of stepwise binding of two main UL25 domains timed with DNA packaging.
Subject classification (UKÄ)
- Microbiology in the medical area
- Atomic force microscopy
- Mechanical maturation